Friday, December 28, 2007

Rudy the 'Man' to 'Chase Muslims Back to their Caves'

Foot-in-mouth Sufferer, John Deady, the New Hampshire State Co-Chair of Veterans for Rudy "Mr. 9/11" Giuliani.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Statement from the Jamaat-e-Islami Party on the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

Qazi gives strike call to mourn Ms. Bhutto demise

LAHORE, Dec 27: Expressing deep sorrow and grief over the assassination of PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto in bomb blast at a public rally in Rawalpindi on Thursday Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan Qazi Hussain Ahmad has given a general strike call on Friday to mourn the killing of former prime minister. In a statement on Friday Qazi Hussain Ahmad regretted that demise of Ms. Bhutto was yet another serve blow the Bhutto family. The family had witnessed series of tragic deaths of late Z.A. Bhutto sons and now her daughter met the same fate which is an irreparable loss for the family.Qazi Hussain Ahmad said that notwithstanding the fact that PPP and Jamaat-e-Islami adhere to distinct and different ideologies but it does not bar him to condemn the assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto which has caused vacuum in the political arena. "The nation would not allow the political slaves of Pervez Musharraf to fill this vacuum." He held President Pervez Musharraf responsible for the death of Benazir Bhutto saying he is accountable for all the mess across the country. He expressed sympathy with the PPP leadership and workers in this hour of grief and invited them to turn this grief into source of strength. He appealed them to extend cooperation to the opposition parties in their struggle against removing Pervez Musharraf from power since his polices have brought the country to verge of collapse. Meanwhile, Qazi Hussain Ahmad spoke to PPP leader Makdoom Amin Faheem and shared his grief and sorrow over the death of their leader. Qazi Hussain Ahmad prayed the Allah Almighty that may He rest the soul of Benazir Bhutto's and those who killed in the blast in eternal peace. He also prayed for the early recovery of all those injured. [Source:]

Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007)
Two-time former prime minister Benazir Bhutto joins a long list of her immediate family who have meet violent ends. Her father, former prime minister Zulfiqar 'Ali Bhutto, was overthrown in 1977 by the Pakistani military headed by General Zia ul-Haqq and was hanged two years later. Her brothers Shahnawaz and Mir Murtaza were both murdered, allegedly by Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Dogged by allegations of corruption, Benazir returned to Pakistan in October 2007 with the goal of challenging current Pakistani president and autocrat Pervez Musharraff. Many of her supporters have blamed the president and the ISI, perhaps with radical al-Qa'ida or similar elements, for her murder. No evidence, however, has yet been uncovered.
Her return was to a large degree organized by the United States and British governments who saw Bhutto and her Pakistan People's Party as the key to Musharraff's survival. With her assassination, the PPP has been left leaderless since Benazir had previously named herself chairperson for life. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid commented on an NPR special today that the Bhuttos (her father founded the PPP) never planned for a succession process outside of their immediate family. Many analysts believe now with her death, the PPP will splinter into different factions which will lessen its political impact.
Early reporting in the U.S. about her assassination has tended to ignore or downplay past controversies and sanctified Benazir's role as a democratically-minded politician. Despite the debateable nature of some claims made about her today, her assassination may mark yet another descent into chaos for Pakistan. Many Pakistanis, such as the protesting lawyers, have challenged the one-man rule which has existed in the country since Musharraff came to power through a military coup in 1999, supported by the U.S. and Great Britain since September 2001.

Friday, December 21, 2007

CampusWatch: The Middle East for Neocons & Radical Zionists

The right-wing, pro-Israel seld-appointed watchdog/group CampusWatch, founded by Rudy Giuliani advisor Daniel Pipes (who does not believe in the current and did not believe in past peace processes between Israelis and Palestinians), features a "Quote of the Month" on its web site. Usually this space is dedicated to attempting to smear American Middle Eastern and Islamic studies academics by selectively quoting them out of context. However, this month the space has been given to a quote from Manfred Gerstenfeld, who slanders these same academics as a whole group (the first sign of idiocy, speaking about an entire group or "generation" as the shameless Gerstenfeld puts it). What are his credentials to speak on the Middle East? By training, he is a chemist and an economist. He is also chairman of the steering committee at the right-wing Israeli institution the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, headed by former Ariel Sharon advisor Dore Gold. His recent work has been devoted to the deflection of criticisms of Israeli government policies by attempting to change the subject to the Holocaust and the alleged "new anti-Semitism" in Europe.
The not so secret "big secret" of CampusWatch and other American right-wing organizations and right-leaning outlets (such as Fox News) is that their calls for "fair and balanced" scholarship, study, or coverage are a lie. These groups really seek to bias coverage of the region toward their own direction while masquerading behind a faux call for "non-partisanship," (see ASMEA, the new Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami-headed Middle East studies association for neoconservatives and their marginalized chickenhawk and Orientalist allies.) Perhaps the saddest fact is that so many Americans believe their lies.
"The 1968 generation wanted to conquer the world. They went nowhere. So they took refuge in academia, the only part of the world where they found a real home. This often failed generation ended up in that one refuge, where they could promote each other - and bring in their buddies. This is, among others, particularly true of Middle Eastern studies departments in the United States."
-Manfred Gerstenfeld
Comment: Considering that the overwhelming majority of scholars with actual experience and academic background in the Middle East do not tow Gerstenfeld's Lewisian line, it would seem that it is Gerstenfeld and his compatriots who have "failed." Now, they did bring the world the Iraq War...

Muqtada Meets Rival Shi'i Leader al-Hakim; Resumes Seminary Studies

Iraq's Maverick Cleric Hits the Books

The leader of Iraq's biggest Shiite militia movement has quietly resumed seminary studies toward attaining the title of ayatollah — a goal that could make firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army an even more formidable power broker in Iraq.
Al-Sadr's objectives — described to The Associated Press by close aides — are part of increasingly bitter Shiite-on-Shiite battles for control of Iraq's southern oil fields, the lucrative pilgrim trade to Shiite holy cities and the nation's strategic Persian Gulf outlet.
The endgame among Iraq's majority Shiites also means long-term influence over Iraqi political and financial affairs as the Pentagon and its allies look to scale down their military presence in the coming year.

Al-Sadr's backers remain main players in the showdowns across the region, where fears of even more bloodshed are rising following Wednesday's triple car bombing in one of the area's main urban hubs. At least 25 people were killed and scores wounded.

But al-Sadr — who was last seen publicly in May — is also confronting the most serious challenges to his influence, which includes sway over a bloc in parliament and a militia force that numbers as many as 60,000 by some estimates. Becoming an ayatollah — one of the highest Shiite clerical positions — would give the 33-year-old al-Sadr an important new voice and aura.
It also would give him fresh clout to challenge his top rival, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which looks to Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani as its highest religious authority and has its own armed wing, the Badr Brigade, which have been largely absorbed into Iraqi security forces.

Al-Sadr often stresses his Iraqi and Arab roots and rejects suggestions that he is beholden to Persian Iran, the world's Shiite heavyweight and the benefactor of many Shiite politicians.
As an ayatollah, his views and fatwas, or religious edicts, would resonate with even more authority as the battles heat up for sway over Iraq's Shiite heartland.

Comparisons are often drawn between al-Sadr's strategy — a mix of militia strength, well-tuned street politics and social outreach — and the hallmarks of Hezbollah, which has been influenced by Lebanon's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah, as well Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Iran's 1979 Islam Revolution. "If ... Muqtada becomes a religious authority, the entire movement will grow stronger," said one of the aides who described al-Sadr's seminary studies to the AP.

The al-Sadr associates — three in all — spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to share the information with the media. Their accounts, made in separate interviews, were in broad agreement. Al-Sadr currently has the relatively low title of hojat al-Islam, which leaves his supporters no choice but to seek religious guidance from top establishment clerics — many of whom al-Sadr sees as out of touch with common Iraqis and accuses of acquiescing to Washington's demands.

The aides said al-Sadr was currently on a path to achieve ayatollah rank possibly by 2010 or earlier. His studies were under the supervision of senior clerics in the Shiite holy city of Najaf — where al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fought grinding urban battles with U.S. forces in 2004.
In 2000, al-Sadr enrolled in "outside research" — roughly the equivalent of a doctoral program. Afghan-born Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Ishaq al-Fayad, one of Najaf's four top clerics, supervised him when he joined, but al-Sadr's attendance has been spotty since 2003.
Successful candidates qualify for ayatollah upon completion of the rigorous Islamic studies. But it's also necessary to have a family pedigree in Islamic scholarship and a following among seminary students and laymen.

Al-Sadr should have no problem. His father, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, is the namesake for the teeming Shiite district in Baghdad known as Sadr City — called Saddam City before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Saddam Hussein's agents killed al-Sadr's father and two brothers in 1999.

Significantly, the aides said, the main focus of al-Sadr's studies has been the Shiite doctrine known in Arabic as "wilayet al-faqeeh," which supports the right of clerical rule. The concept was adopted Iran's Khomeini, but carries little support among Iraq's Shiite religious hierarchy.
Al-Sadr has not been seen in public since May but is believed to travel frequently between Iran and Najaf. His whereabouts are never revealed by his aides and he rarely gives media interviews.

Al-Sadr also is seeking to give the Mahdi Army a more religious bloodline, the aides said.
Some militiamen are taking seminary lessons for three hours a day, five days a week in private homes and out-of-the-way mosques to escape the detection of the U.S. military.
The aides said only those who pass seminary exams will remain in the militia, which has been splintered by defections from factions favoring closer ties with Iran and opposing an order in August to put down weapons for six months.

The move was seen as an attempt by al-Sadr to reclaim control of the militia and weed out mutineers. It has been credited for a noticeable reduction in violence, but appears to have emboldened the U.S. military to step up a crackdown against Mahdi leaders.
The cleric's absence from the public eye has raised some questions about his control of the movement, although his aides said he has been in regular contact with key lieutenants. His loyalists hold 30 of parliament's 275 seats, the largest share by a single party.

"The movement's strength and cohesion don't revolve around al-Sadr alone," said Saad al-Hadeithi, a political science lecture at Baghdad university. "Al-Sadr is leading a movement that's largely held together by the historical legacy of the family."

It's also fueled by the intense rivalry with the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and its leader, 'Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, who also carries a bloody family narrative. The group's founder, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, was assassinated in August 2003 in a bombing blamed on Sunni militants. The younger al-Hakim holds the same hojat al-Islam rank as al-Sadr.

Al-Sadr pulled out his ministers from the Shiite-dominated government in April and later pulled out from the umbrella Shiite alliance in parliament. Tensions in southern Iraq have risen sharply in recent weeks as the United States and Britain prepare to scale down their presence, leaving behind a potentially dangerous power vacuum.

Next week, Britain plans to hand over control of Basra province, the most important in the south. The Pentagon has diverted much of its attention to battles in central and northern Iraq against Sunni extremists, including al-Qaida in Iraq.

In his latest statement, however, al-Sadr counseled his followers to be patient in the face of "predicament" and commended them on their adherence to his order to stand down. But the aides said al-Sadr's own patience may be running thin and a showdown with the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council may be imminent. "If this continues for much longer, the Sadrist movement will strike back," warned one of the aides. "This could have grave consequences for everyone."

Commentary: Muqtada, whose claims to be a mid-ranking theologian (hujjat al-Islam) are in some dispute, is visibly more poised than he was two to three years ago. This seemingly supports the reports that he has resumed his seminary studies if for no other reason than to reform his rough hewn image. He comes from an illustrious scholarly family. His father, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr stood up to Saddam Hussein and was martyred. Muqtada is also related to Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, perhaps the most influential and important Twelver Shi'i theologian and intellectual in modern history.

In the video he is shown meeting with his key rival, 'Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the largest single political party in Iraq, the most powerful Shi'i political party, and a key Iranian and U.S. ally.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Today: Climax of the Hajj

Muslim pilgrims have poured onto Mount Arafat east of Mecca to mark the climax of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. They came on foot, by bus and in pick-up trucks from Mina and other sites in the direction of Mecca on Tuesday, adding to a throng which will reach more than two million by afternoon.

Saudi Arabian authorities say more than 1.6 million people from 181 different countries have entered the country for the event, largest annual religious gathering in the world. Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, the Saudi interior minister, said the figure was a three per cent increase on last year. He said that several hundred thousand residents of the kingdom, both Saudi and expatriate, were also taking part.

Some of the pilgrims spent the night on Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma or the Mountain of Mercy. The faithful will spend the day praying and asking for God's forgiveness at the summit, in a symbolic waiting for the last judgment.

A sea of people wrapped in white cloth streamed along six-lane roads to fill the plain, carrying mats, food, screens against the sun, Qurans and prayer books. The afternoon at Arafat, known in Arabic as the wuqouf or "standing", is an essential part of the pilgrimage. The noon prayer and sermon at the Namera Mosque is a major event, evoking the sermon which the Prophet Muhammad made from the hill in the year of his death in 632.

[Source: Al-Jazeera]

Monday, December 17, 2007

Press Freedoms May Be Severely Restricted in Northern Iraq

A shade of Iraqi Kurdistan which the self-proclaimed "friend of Kurdistan" Christopher Hitchens does not speak about.....Clan-based politics dominated by two strongmen, Jalal Talabani (right) and Masoud Barzani (left.)
Iraqi Kurd Media Bill Draws Protest

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq (AP) — Lawmakers in Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region approved a measure that would allow courts to accuse journalists of "vague offenses" relating to terrorism or disturbing security, drawing protests Friday from Kurdish journalists and an international media advocate. The Committee to Protect Journalists said the bill, approved Tuesday in a sparsely attended parliamentary session, could be "exploited by pro-government judges to put critical newspapers out of business." Aws Herdi, editor of the weekly Kurdish newspaper Owena, accused the major Kurdish parties that supported the measure of hypocrisy, saying their slogans for freedom "are only empty words."
"This new law will send journalists to prison, ban newspapers and allow for outrageous fines under various pretexts," Herdi said at a protest Friday in Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles northeast of Baghdad. He said any journalist who writes about terrorism could be accused of a crime under the measure. The bill must be approved by the Kurdish president, Massoud Barzani, before it goes into effect.
Among the lawmakers who opposed the measure was Suzan Shihab of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Of the semiautonomous region's 111 lawmakers, only 57 attended the session. Of those, 11 abstained and seven voted against it. "This law means silencing people, journalists, and intellectuals who usually criticize the government and its mistakes," said Shihab, who attended Friday's protest. There was a similar gathering in Irbil, another Kurdish city.
Shihab called on Barzani to veto the measure.

Under the measure, journalists can be prosecuted in counterterrorism courts, which could bring the death penalty, and newspapers can be shut down for up to six months and face fines up to $8,200. "Given the tenuous financial and political situation of independent papers — several operate at losses or barely break even — the bill's elastic language could be exploited by pro-government judges to put critical newspapers out of business," the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement Friday.
The Kurdish government has said a new media law is needed to replace the current law, which dates to the era of Saddam Hussein, but has otherwise not commented on the specifics of the measure. Aso Jabbar, a government critic who attended Friday's protest, said the law would not make him back down. "We shouldn't be frightened of prisons," he said. "Putting me in prison for my views is an honor."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

'A Million Little Writers:'

Welcome to the world of celebrity academics–and the behind-the-scenes scribes who help make their fame and fortune possible.

By Jacob Hale Russell

In September 2004, Charles Ogletree, a professor at Harvard Law School, found himself having to admit that his latest book, All Deliberate Speed, contained six paragraphs lifted verbatim from a book by Yale professor Jack Balkin, What “Brown v. Board of Education” Should Have Said. Equally surprising was the fact that Ogletree hadn’t known about the plagiarism, which occurred in a passage about the history of desegregation efforts, until he was told of it by Balkin himself.

“I accept full responsibility for this error,” Ogletree said in a statement. But some readers of that statement might have gotten a different impression: Ogletree attributed the plagiarism to two research assistants: “Material from Professor Jack Balkin’s book … was inserted … by one of my assistants for the purpose of being reviewed, researched, and summarized by another research assistant with proper attribution … Unfortunately, the second assistant, under the pressure of meeting a deadline, inadvertently deleted this attribution and edited the text as though it had been written by me. The second assistant then sent a revised draft to the publisher.”

It was a curious admission. In other words, at least some of Ogletree’s manuscript was sent to his publisher without having been read by the person supposed to have written it. Yet to Ogletree, the crime was not that someone else had written the material, just that it wasn’t the person Ogletree expected to write it.

But check the title page of All Deliberate Speed and the Library of Congress catalog information, and Ogletree’s name stands alone. An impressive total of nine students are listed in the acknowledgements as a “deeply committed group of researchers,” but there’s not a hint that their words appear verbatim in the book—or, at least, there wasn’t until something went wrong.

Derek Bok, one of the two professors appointed by the law school to review the episode, barely raised an eyebrow over the apparent use of uncredited ghostwriters. As he told the Boston Globe at the time, “There was no deliberate wrongdoing at all … He marshaled his assistants and parcelled out the work and in the process some quotation marks got lost”—a description that probably sounded flip to any author who has ever been plagiarized. Ogletree was “reprimanded,” but suffered no tangible consequences.

Which is probably why little seems to have changed with the way Ogletree creates the written work to which he assigns his name; a student familiar with Ogletree’s writing process on a current book, as well as op-eds and briefs for law cases, says that, three years after the plagiarism scandal, Ogletree still parcels out the work to a group of about 10 students on his payroll. The distinguished professor of law will review, but generally leave untouched, the writing of his most trusted researchers. He then puts his name on top of it.
And, to be fair, Ogletree is hardly alone: A growing number of books attributed to Harvard professors are composed in exactly this manner.

When we buy books off best seller lists these days, we almost expect to read the work of more than the named author: his backstage researchers, editors, and agents, maybe even a ghostwriter. Professional athletes admit that they haven’t read the “autobiographies” that carry their names; thriller writer James Patterson has six books coming out this year, thanks to the little-known co-authors who work with him; some popular authors, such as Robert Ludlum and V.C. Andrews, even continue writing books after they’re dead, thanks to the help of hired ghosts.

One might think that the ivory tower should and could resist such commercialism. If nowhere else, the provenance of an idea ought still to matter in academia; the authenticity of authorship should remain a truism. After all, one of the reasons scholars are granted tenure is so they can write free of the commercial pressures of the publishing world, taking as long as they need to get things right. And, whether in the sciences or the humanities, the world of scholarship has always prioritized the proper crediting of sources and co-contributors.

That image of academia may be idealistic, but most scholars still profess allegiance to it, and it is held up to undergraduate and graduate students as the proper way to conduct their own research and writing, reinforced by strict regulations regarding student plagiarism. As the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Student Handbook states, “Students who, for whatever reason, submit work either not their own or without clear attribution to its sources will be subject to disciplinary action, and ordinarily required to withdraw from the College.”

Students—but not professors. Because, in any number of academic offices at Harvard, the relationship between “author” and researcher(s) is a distinctly gray area. A young economics professor hires seven researchers, none yet in graduate school, several of them pulling 70-hour work-weeks; historians farm out their research to teams of graduate students, who prepare meticulously written memos that are closely assimilated into the finished work; law school professors “write” books that acknowledge dozens of research assistants without specifying their contributions. These days, it is practically the norm for tenured professors to have research and writing squads working on their publications, quietly employed at stages of co-authorship ranging from the non-controversial (photocopying) to more authorial labor, such as significant research on topics central to the final work, to what can only be called ghostwriting.

To read the rest of the article, go to:

Monday, December 10, 2007

'Anatomy of a Civil War:' Dissecting Iraq

As some readers already know, independent journalist Nir Rosen is one of the most incisive commentators on Iraq's ongoing civil war. His book, In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq, is worth the list price though it lacks the analytical framework needed to interpret Rosen's anecdotal evidence.

On April 7, 2006, the third anniversary of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, I drove south with Shia pilgrims from Baghdad to the shrine city of Najaf. The day before, on the same route, a minibus like ours had taken machine-gun fire in the Sunni town of Iskandariyah. Five pilgrims were killed.

My companions—a young man named Ahmed, his mother, and their friend Iskander, a driver—came from Sadr City, the Shia bastion in Baghdad named for Muhammad Sadiq al Sadr, a popular and politically ambitious Shia cleric slain in 1999. They wanted to hear a sermon by Sadr’s son, Muqtada, who after the war had become the single most important person in Iraq and the only one capable of sustaining the fragile alliance between Shias and Sunnis. His power had only grown, although hopes for that alliance were now gone.

It was Friday, and like my companions, I was going to the Friday prayers. I had been following this practice since I arrived in Iraq in April 2003, when it became clear that clerics were filling the power vacuum created by the war. After the fall of Saddam and his Baath Party, looting and anarchy gave way to forces of more organized violence: men with guns, some wearing the turbans of clerics, some the scarves of the resistance, and many belonging to criminal gangs. Despite American intentions to create a secular, democratic Iraq, clerics were quickly replacing Baathists, and in the absence of anything else the mosque would become Iraq’s most influential institution.

To read the rest of the (lengthy) article, see:

Friday, December 07, 2007

Survey: Only 20% of Israelis are Secular

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz Correspondent

Just 20 percent of Jews in Israel describe themselves as secular, according to a recent poll. Since the early 1970s, surveys that have measured Israeli Jews' affinity to tradition have fluctuated among various communities. But the recent figures represent a new low point for the secular community. For example, in 1974, the number of those describing themselves as secular stood at more than 40 percent.

The new Democracy Index conducted by the Guttman Center at the Israel Democracy Institute, is based on 1,016 interviews. It includes a breakdown along general national and cultural origins, namely Ashkenazim (Jews of European descent), Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern descent) and Israelis (both the subjects and their parents born in Israel).

Of the Israelis, 85 percent claimed some form of religious affiliation, compared with 93 percent of the Mizrahim and 64 percent of the Ashkenazim. Describing themselves as religious were 56 percent of the Mizrahim compared with 17 percent of the Ashkenazim.
To read the rest of the article, see:

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bush vs. Intelligence

Iran remains a threat to the world despite new intelligence saying the country may not be building nuclear weapons, the U.S. president says.
Monday's report said with "high confidence" that it believed Iran had halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, but that it was continuing to enrich uranium.

The declassified summary of the combined assessment of the US's 16 intelligence agencies said Iran was keeping its options open on developing nuclear weapons.
The assessment overturned the previous view that Iran was pushing ahead with a weapons programme.
What can one say, when this guy thinks he's right and Jeebus argees, there's nothing which will stand in his way. This includes logic, critical thinking, and facts.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Throwback: Kerry vs. Bush